"The Poetics of Eros in Ancient Greece" offers the first
comprehensive inquiry into the deity of sexual love, a power that
permeated daily Greek life. Avoiding Foucault's philosophical
paradigm of dominance/submission, Claude Calame uses an
anthropological and linguistic approach to re-create indigenous
categories of erotic love. He maintains that Eros, the joyful
companion of Aphrodite, was a divine figure around which poets
constructed a physiology of desire that functioned in specific ways
within a network of social relations. Calame begins by showing how
poetry and iconography gave a rich variety of expression to the
concept of Eros, then delivers a history of the deity's roles
within social and political institutions, and concludes with a
discussion of an Eros-centered metaphysics.
Calame's treatment of archaic and classical Greek institutions
reveals Eros at work in initiation rites and celebrations,
educational practices, the Dionysiac theater of tragedy and comedy,
and in real and imagined spatial settings. For men, Eros functioned
particularly in the symposium and the gymnasium, places where men
and boys interacted and where future citizens were educated. The
household was the setting where girls, brides, and adult wives
learned their erotic roles--as such it provides the context for
understanding female rites of passage and the problematics of
sexuality in conjugal relations. Through analyses of both Greek
language and practices, Calame offers a fresh, subtle reading of
relations between individuals as well as a quick-paced and
fascinating overview of Eros in Greek society at large.
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